Signs of Laminitis: Identifying the Presence of the Condition

By Siun Griffin, Equine Physiotherapist and LCAO Community Manager

Laminitis is a painful condition that affects the hooves of horses and requires prompt recognition and intervention to minimize its impact. Recognizing the signs and symptoms of laminitis is crucial for early detection and appropriate management.

The following information outlines common signs indicative of laminitis in horses.

1. Lameness and Reluctance to Move


Photo credit: Laminitis Discovery Database, PennVet, University of Pennsylvania

Laminitis often presents as lameness, with affected horses showing a reluctance to move or walk.

The lameness may initially be mild but can progress rapidly, leading to severe pain and an unwillingness to bear weight on the affected hooves.

Horses with laminitis may adopt a characteristic “rocking horse” stance, shifting their weight frequently between the front and hind limbs.



















2. Heat and Increased Digital Pulse

Heat in the hooves and an increased digital pulse are common indicators of laminitis. By gently feeling the affected hooves, a veterinarian or experienced horse owner may detect an abnormally warm temperature.

Additionally, an elevated digital pulse can be felt in the digital arteries located at the back of the fetlock. This increased pulse indicates inflammation and increased blood flow to the hoof.

Photo from: Southwest Equine Veterinary Group



3. Shifting Weight and Lameness Response

Horses with laminitis may shift their weight frequently from one limb to another in an attempt to alleviate pain. This weight-shifting behavior is often observed when the horse is at rest, and it may be more pronounced when standing on hard surfaces or when turning in tight circles. Affected horses may also exhibit a strong lameness response when their hooves are tapped or pressured.

Photo from: Nebraska Equine Veterinary Clinic



4. Hoof Pain and Sensitivity

Hoof pain and sensitivity are key signs of laminitis. Affected horses may exhibit a strong reaction when pressure is applied to the affected hooves, such as during hoof testing or when walking on hard or uneven surfaces. The pain is often more pronounced in the toe region of the hoof, and horses may show signs of discomfort during hoof trimming or shoeing procedures.

5. Altered Hoof Appearance

Changes in hoof appearance can also indicate the presence of laminitis. In acute cases, visible swelling and an increased digital pulse may be evident.

As the condition progresses, the hoof wall may separate from the underlying structures, leading to a “seedy toe” appearance. Rotation or sinking of the coffin bone within the hoof capsule can result in a characteristic change in the hoof’s shape and angle.

It is important to note that the severity and presentation of laminitis can vary among individual horses, and some signs may be more subtle or less apparent in certain cases.

Therefore, any suspicion of laminitis should be promptly addressed by a veterinarian for a thorough examination and appropriate diagnostic measures.


Photo credit: Laminitis Discovery Database, PennVet, University of Pennsylvania.




Early recognition of the signs of laminitis is crucial for effective management and minimizing the potential long-term consequences for affected horses.

Lameness, heat in the hooves, increased digital pulse, weight shifting, hoof pain, sensitivity, and altered hoof appearance are common indicators of the condition. Prompt veterinary attention and tailored treatment protocols are essential for optimizing the outcome and welfare of horses affected by laminitis.

Reference: For detailed information about the images here and more images visit PennVet Laminitis Laboratory Gallery.

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